Bebek was a fishing village when conquered by Mehmed the Conqueror; and according to different sources, its oldest name is thought to be “Hallai” which is a deformation of Challae, Chilai, Khile, and Skallai (piers). It was then named after the nickname of the chief captain Mehmet Çelebi, who was assigned to protect the district during the construction of Rumeli Fortress by Mehmed the Conqueror, Bebek has always been one of the most luxurious and favourite district of Istanbul. In addition to being demanded by cafes, restaurants, bars, Bebek is a district where art galleries are mostly based in.
Bebek was a popular district in the Bosporus for the Ottoman Padishahs. Hümayunabad Pavilion on the coast was constructed by Ahmed III in 17th century. However it was pulled down during the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid and then Hümayunabad mosque with a classic style was constructed by Architect Kemalettin during the first years of Turkish Republic next to where the palace was thought to be.
The mosque is an example of the first nationalist period in Turkish Architecture; and is one of the beautiful mosques of Istanbul mostly known as Bebek Mosque.
COASTAL PALACES AND SUMMER MANSIONS OF BEBEK
There are approximately 40 coastal palaces, mansions, gardens that belonged to the state officials of the Ottoman dynasty along the coast. The most famous mansion is Hidiva which was used by Egypt Khedive Abbas Hilmi Pasha’s family in until 1915; it currently serves as Egypt consulate building. If you walk towards the Rumeli Fortress in the north of Bosporus you will meet one of the rare wooden prayer rooms. Kayalar prayer room is one of them. Next to this prayer room, you will see Yılanlı Yalı (snake pavilion). Mahmud II wants to buy this mansion from the foreign minister Mustafa Efendi.
However, Mustafa Efendi, who is not eager to sell, spreads a rumour that there are snakes in the mansion. Padishah hearing this rumour changes his mind and doesn’t buy the mansion. It was burnt totally in 1964 and the new owner bought the mansion in 1989 and reconstructed it.
COLLEGE EDUCATING PRIME MINISTERS
Robert College, which is the first American college opened outside of the USA, is located in Bebek. The building was built in 1863 and was named after Christopher R. Robert who supported the construction financially. From a small building to an impressive campus above Rumeli Fortress, Robert College was transferred to Ministry of National Education in 1971.
Bosporus University hosts its students at the historical buildings in this campus currently. Robert College educated prime ministers Bülent Ecevit and Tansu Çiller; four Bulgarian prime ministers, writers, doctors, engineers, publishers, artists, musicians, athletes, businessmen etc.
BEBEK PARK AND PIER
One of the lungs of Istanbul, Bebek Park was rebuilt and opened to public in 1980. The trees in the park are more than 100 years old. In 2008, the park entered under the patronage of Sabancı Family and renovated with the name Sabancı Bebek Park. Italian architect Ermanno Casaco protected these centenary trees with his team and planted 9 kinds of 325 new ornamental plants; and the park comprises 8800 square metre green land, 5500 square metre walk way, 1100 square metre playground, 820 square metre for dogs. Festivals, concerts, exhibitions are held on certain days at the park.
Built of wood in 1851, Bebek Pier was heated by stove, a wall clock was added in 1910 in order that ferry hours could be observed. It was moved to its current location in 1920 and reopened in 2001. Besides ferries, plenty of boats benefit from the pier. It is possible to see luxurious boats in the Bebek coast marina.
BEBEK HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS
The nearest restaurant and bar to Bosporus is in the Bebek hotel. It is one of the prominent symbols of the district. Another important symbol, “Bebek Mini Ice cream” is just next to Bebek Hotel. “Lucca”, which is in the centre of Bebek Square and full every hour of the day, is the most popular and known place of Istanbul.
Also Bebek coffeehouse next to the Bebek Mosque is famous for its breakfast. If you take for a walk on the coast where Bebek coffeehouse is located, you may visit plenty of famous cafes, pizza restaurants, and meat and fish restaurants. It is hard to decide what and where to eat among these expert restaurants.
If you come to Bebek, never forget to taste Bebek “Badem Ezmesi” (almond paste – marzipan) which is produced by hand for 75 years. With 150 kg of production a day, only this shop produces marzipan by hand in Istanbul. Add Bebek Marzipan as a souvenir for your fellows.
Alongshore European side tour of Istanbul will go on…